Three days on from He’s A Gold Digger’s success at Tauherenikau in a maiden 1000m event owner, trainer and jockey Malcolm Hill is still trying to get his head around the achievement. Hill, who had ridden his last winner in New Zealand over thirty-five years ago and weighed in at 85kgs when driving trucks in Australia before returning to New Zealand to be closer to his elderly parents, admits he is still riding an emotional high.
“I’m still buzzing,” he said. “It was such a great day and the roar that the crowd gave me was something very special. “It made all the hard work I put in to get my weight down so I could start riding work and the hours spent with this horse all worth it.”
After riding his last winner in Australia in 1989, Hill spent years in and around the racing industry in a variety of roles before deciding to return home. Seeking employment as a trackwork rider meant getting his weight under control was the priority for Hill, a feat for which he has no magic formula. “It was all diet, hard work and sheer bloody mindedness,” he said. “I needed to lose the weight so I could ride work and when I did that, I started thinking about maybe race riding again. “There wasn’t any demand for my services so I thought about getting a horse of my own.
“I bought He’s A Gold Digger sight unseen off the gavelhouse.com website. “I had taken a look at his race videos and his breeding and I liked what I saw. “When I first got him, I could see there was something to work with as he was quite immature. “He still has some maturing to do, so this time next year he could be quite a handy horse.”
Hill admits the main battle with the Deep Field three-year-old has been keeping him calm, a task that has both good and bad days. “He can get pretty hot so just keeping him calm has been a real challenge,” he said. “He’s going to have a few days in the paddock now as you can see he’s having a think about things so a break will be good for him before we have a look at a race at Trentham later in the month. “He was a little stirred up on raceday but coped with it all reasonably well in the end. “I’m hoping that as he matures, he gets his temperament under control as well.”
Along with the personal satisfaction that he has gained from his remarkable feat, Hill has also discovered the publicity around his victory has enabled him to connect with a raft of people he had lost contact with over time. “I’m just amazed at how many people have been in touch with me,” he said. “On Facebook I’ve been getting messages from people that I haven’t heard from in years so that has been very touching. “It’s just great to reconnect with them all and I am very appreciative of all the good wishes and congratulations I have received.”
Hill doesn’t expect the win will result in an avalanche of outside rides becoming available but he is thankful for the support that local trainers such as Dean Cunningham and Nigel Auret have given him. “I actually had my first ride back on one of Dean Cunningham’s so I was very thankful to him,” he said. “I’ve been riding seven or eight each morning for Nigel Auret and we travelled in the truck with his team to Tauherenikau. “We had five on board and came home with two wins and two placings so it was a great day all around.”